China’s Lunar Palace 1 – an experimental biosphere here on Earth.
Credit: CMSE

Chinese student volunteers have completed a one-year test living in a simulated space lab in Beijing on May 15, setting a new record for the longest stay in a self-contained cabin: Yuegong-1, or Lunar Palace 1.

The Moonlab program is staged at Beihang University.

As reported by the state-run Xinhua news agency, the total length of the test, which started on May 10 last year, was 370 days, with the third stage accounting for 110 days.

Co-existing in closed environment

Liu Hong, chief designer of Yuegong-1, said the test marked the longest stay in a bioregenerative life support system (BLSS), in which humans, animals, plants and microorganisms co-exist in a closed environment, simulating a lunar base. Oxygen, water and food are recycled within the BLSS, creating an Earth-like environment.

Eight student volunteers took turns living in the cabin, which measures around 150 square meters. The BLSS is a critical piece of technology required for long-term human stays on the Moon or other extraterrestrial bodies, Liu said.

Inside look at one area of China’s Lunar Palace 1.
Credit: CMSE

New starting point

The cabin consists of two plant cabins and a comprehensive cabin. Liu said the BLSS system had proven to function well over a long period of time. Researchers have also explored the mechanism in which light affects human’s biological rhythms and emotions. They also improved technology for vertical planting, the Xhinua story explains. “This is not the end, but a new starting point to continue to explore space,” Liu said.

Researchers will evaluate the physical and mental conditions of volunteers, study test results, and explore smaller BLSS equipment which could be loaded onto space labs, and Moon and Mars probes in the future.

“The test has important implications for human endeavors to achieve long-term stays outside Earth. The experience, technology and findings will be conducive for future space exploration efforts,” said Wang Jun, an academician from the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

Credit: CCTV-Plus

Integrative experimental facility

Lunar Palace 1 is short for the Integrative Experimental Facility for Permanent Astrobase Life-support Artificial Closed Ecosystem (PALACE) Research.

Construction on the Lunar Palace 1 capsule began in March 2013. The facility was unveiled in January 2014, and it was commissioned just prior to the first mission starting in February 2014.

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